CEAT's move to mobile labs difficult, costly for students

Technological advancements typically make things easier.

But for some Oklahoma State University engineering students, new technology has closed more doors than it’s opened.

Several College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology seniors and graduate students are irate after five computer labs in Cordell and Engineering North closed permanently, forcing students into overcrowded, under-equipped labs across campus, said Wendy Ward-Sullivan, an electrical engineering senior.

George Douglas, manager of CEAT Information Technology Services, said the college is abandoning stationary computers in place of student-supplied laptops to make the program more mobile.  

“I think the understanding is three years ago, every freshman coming in should come in with a laptop,” Douglas said. “So we are moving from fixed computers to mobile computers. This is the fourth year of that program, so almost everybody up to the senior level will not have it, but everybody else should have a laptop.”

The situation is fine for underclassmen, but for electrical and mechanical engineering seniors such as Ward-Sullivan and Jordan Stuckwish, the announcement was out of nowhere, they said.

Douglas said students were informed of the closings, but both Ward-Sullivan and Stuckwish said they had no idea they would return from winter break to find their labs locked with nothing in them besides tables and chairs.

The decision came directly from CEAT dean Paul Tikalsky, which Douglas said caught him off guard.

“It’s unfortunate that not everybody was brought up to the level at the same time,” Douglas said. “It was a little surprise for us because students are coming back and they’re coming back to a complete change.”

CEAT is doing what it can to inform students, but Douglas said student council can help relay the message to reach more students.

Ward-Sullivan said the communication wasn’t enough. She said seniors, non-traditional students and graduate students are forced to purchase expensive, vital software some computers can’t handle.

Without the software, Ward-Sullivan said a diploma is out the window.

“We have classes just based on the software,” Ward-Sullivan said. “In order for you to get your degree, you have to take one to two classes covering that software.”

The software’s availability is limited, and it’s distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Ward-Sullivan said the system leaves students scrambling and out of money.

Douglas said the transition is a work in progress.

“It’s still in the works,” Douglas said. “So if you don’t have a laptop or you need a laptop or you need a place to work, we can try to work with you on that, and if you really need a laptop, sometimes we are able to work with the student to resolve that.”

Douglas said it’s a temporary fix because laptops aren’t loaned a semester at a time but rather on a week-by-week basis, and only teaching assistants can check them out to teach classes.

There are labs available to students who don’t have a laptop or the software in Engineering South and Cordell Hall, but they have room for only 123 students. The lab in Engineering North is restricted to faculty and teaching assistants.

Ward-Sullivan said students are frequently pushed out of these labs in favor of computerized classes that use the rooms.

Each of the open labs is accessible 24/7 with an OSU student ID, but Ward-Sullivan said the real problems are with overpopulation and a lack of communication.

“Ultimately, I just wish the university had more transparency with the issues that are going on,” Ward-Sullivan said. “That’s the worst feeling in the world, to feel like we’re stupid and that we aren’t competent enough to handle certain programs.”